Sexplanations: Picking the Right Birth Control Option

I often get asked: “What is the best kind of birth control?” 

The short answer is the best kind of birth control is unique to each person. However, the most effective form of birth control is hormonal birth control, the IUD with hormones being the most effective when you consider typical use (99.8 per cent), a vasectomy if you are considering a permanent form of birth control (99.9 per cent).  

The longer answer is that each person considering birth control needs to think about things such as: do you want to put artificial hormones into your body? Can you remember to take birth control each day, week or month? Do you need to hide the birth control from parents or partners? Are you or your partner(s) allergic to latex? How long are you planning to use it? Are you comfortable touching your body? Do you have benefits that cover birth control? Do you know the side effects of the method? Do you have a healthcare provider you trust to discuss birth control with? And do you have health concerns, including mental health, that may affect the type of birth control you use?

It is important to educate yourself when deciding what birth control is best for you. There are many kinds you have probably never heard of and many side effects that are often not discussed. Talk to friends and family, but don’t use something just because they are, use it because you think it is the best for you. In my opinion, many healthcare providers do not know much more about birth control than non-healthcare providers and may push something because they are familiar with it or have a relationship with a drug company. Everyone has biases. 

I often discuss birth control with groups and every time inevitably someone will say, “I got pregnant using that, it doesn’t work!” News flash — people get pregnant using birth control — often. No birth control method is 100 per cent effective, not even forms of birth control considered permanent such as vasectomies (which are 99.9 per cent effective) and tubal ligations (99.5 per cent effective).

Birth control methods have a perfect use and typical use effectiveness rate. A perfect use effectiveness rate is often unachievable, while the typical use effectiveness rate considers human behaviour such as forgetting to take your pill, using expired condoms that may break more easily, and medications such as antibiotics interfering. The pill, the patch and the ring are all 92 per cent effective with typical use for example, whereas they are over 99 per cent with perfect use. 

At the moment, if you have a penis, your options are vasectomy, condoms and pulling out. You can of course help pay for birth control, not complain about using condoms and educate yourself about the side effects of hormonal birth control your partner may be experiencing. You can also use condoms with other forms of birth control to increase effectiveness and protect yourself, and others, from sexually transmitted infections (STIs), as condoms are the only form of birth control that can do this. 

Birth control is often thought of as something you use once you are a certain age, or a next step in a relationship, however, birth control can affect your health in many ways. Take the time to find out what is the best method for you. 

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Stacey Jacobs is the sexual health educational manager at SHORE.


Stacey Jacobs has been a Sex Educator for almost 2 decades. For 13 of those years she worked as a Sexual Health Educator at Planned Parenthood. She teaches in the Sexuality, Marriage and Family Studies Program at the University of Waterloo and when not educating, she enjoys reading, walking her dogs and eating good food. The life of a Sex Educator is usually not as interesting as people assume.